Book review - Friend Request, Laura Marshall
FRIEND REQUEST is not a social media crime novel as expected; the platform is used instead here to spark off a chain of events. Thematically the story does not labour over the highlight reel that is social media but it is importantly touched upon, tying it neatly back into the past before Facebook etc when many of the same societal pressures existed for young people, albeit in a less technologically advanced age. Different generations facing the same age old concerns. Children being horrific to other children. The feeling of being completely alone as a teenager even though you are typically surrounded by many people on any given day of your school dictated life.
Louise’s slow disintegration is written with care, and it is the increasing of Louise second guessing herself that rachets up the tension. Is Louise actually being stalked, is she over thinking, is there real danger to Louise’s own life and that of her son now as a result of what she participated in as a child. As a reader we’re never entirely sure but there is never any doubt that Louise is fearful and keen to find out the answers to all the questions she should have asked long ago.
Laura Marshall’s debut novel reminds us why most of us move on and far beyond what we were in high school. Remove the rose-coloured glasses, and the “good old days” actually probably were anything but. The adults in this novel are being forced to remember what they were, and its uncomfortable for them to be reminded. This is a cleverly written ‘slow draw’ mystery of dread and old baggage. It will resonate with those who have had to pull back from toxic friends, online or otherwise, and with those who wish they could blank out the mistakes they have made in the past.
Louise is on the treadmill of busyness that all single parents are forced to negotiate every day. Her son is great, her ex operates at the standard level of selfish and annoying, her fledgling business is going well and in the between-times Louise checks in and tries to keep up with everyone else’s frantic lives via Facebook. The bright shiny lives of Louise’s friends, ex colleagues and acquaintances are cyber surreal to her and the friends that were once vitally important in the school years have now become just posts on her phone screen. The ‘friend request’ received from a dead school mate rocks Louise straight back to those school days of fake friends, neuroses and crushing peer pressure.
Back in the day Louise had been like every other girl she knew; desperate to at least be a few rungs up from the bottom of the teenage social ladder, keen to just to get the whole high school experience over and done with. It’s sure to be better eventually but when you’re in the trenches of being a teenager, you find yourself doing odd out of character things just to get by. Maria, having transferred across from another school, finds out the hard way that rumours about why you had to leave your last school will always somehow follow you to the next one. On the night of their year dance, Maria is separated from the party goers and presumed drowned. A terrible accident, and a terrible waste. Louise and her friends from that night are all grown up now but they all carry small pieces of the puzzle of what really happened to Maria that night. The terrified Louise seeks out her old class mates and it appears that Louise is not the only one who Facebook Maria has made contact with.